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By: Alexia Avena
One of the first questions that pops into your head after graduating high school is, “what do I do now?” I too, ran into this question. I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what career path I wanted to take. I decided on getting a general education Associate’s degree to start myself off, hoping that maybe after taking a few different courses, I would find the right pick. I went through a lot of trial and error, eventually finding myself coming back to one particular field of study: English. Soon after finishing my Associate’s, I transferred to WIU to work on completing my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language. In just the first few weeks of my first semester I knew I had made the right decision for my degree.
You’re probably wondering what point I am trying to make here, and how it relates to getting a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences (MLIS). The point is that I, like most college students, was very indecisive on what career path to go on until I was given information that inspired me to go on the path that I am heading on now. With the help of some fellow WIU classmates who were already on the path towards a MLIS degree, I was convinced that I too, wanted to pursue this path. I hope that by writing this, I have helped someone out there gain the inspiration to also choose this path for their own, or at least consider it as an option. Worst case scenario, you learn some interesting facts you may not have known about this Master’s degree.
For those of you who may be partially through or almost to completion of your undergraduate program and don’t want to start over in order to go into this graduate program, you are in luck; you don’t have to change a thing. There is no specifically required undergraduate degree you need to attain before applying for an MLIS. All that matters is what type of librarianship you want to actually pursue. For example, I would like to work in the Youth Services/Children’s section of the library for educational and literacy purposes, so my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language works perfectly for preparing me for that area. If you are someone who is currently getting a Bachelor’s in History, then the archives section of a library would most likely suit you best. You could use virtually any undergraduate experience in one way or another as a perfect first step into pursuing a MLIS degree, there is no correct way to do it.
With today’s digital age, librarians are not the stereotyped mean old lady with their hair tied tightly back, “shh”-ing you at every second of every day. Librarians are a welcoming group of digitally advanced and community involved people of different ages, ethnicities and of both sexes. Another great thing about going into this MLIS degree is that if you don’t want to work in a library, then you don’t have to. One of the biggest misperceptions about the MLIS degree is that it limits you only to libraries, which is not really true. One of the most beneficial skills you will learn from this degree is how to successfully navigate and manage information, which is a great skill to have in any job. You can make your job go beyond just the traditional librarian career and as far out as your imagination can reach. If, however, you do choose to go the librarian path for this degree, there are two major pieces of advice I can give you before you apply to the program.
The first thing to do is go out and talk with some local librarians in your community. Libraries differ from place to place, and there are different kinds of libraries as well: public, school, government, medical, etc. Get to know what the job is like from people who are actually working in the potential job you may want to pursue. I personally got the chance to sit down and talk with some of the different department heads of my local public library, which helped me confirm the area of librarianship I wanted to pursue, while also getting a great opportunity to get to know some areas of librarianship I wasn’t familiar with. Another great thing to do is volunteer or intern at different libraries to gain a personal experience of how libraries work. I have had the wonderful opportunity of working as an intern or volunteer in four different library settings: two public libraries, a private elementary school library, and my own WIU campus library. The experience is not only great for future job or graduate degree applications, but is also an overall great experience to get to know the community those libraries work with and make connections with new people.
Making the decision to get a MLIS was a great choice for me, and maybe, it can be a great choice for you too. It is a big investment, and takes a lot of hard work and imagination, but what higher education doesn’t? If I have convinced you to consider this career, then I encourage you to do some more digging of your own and get the inspiration to make that next step. If I have not convinced you to get a MLIS, then I hope that maybe you learned something new from reading this, and it has inspired you to look deeper into the career path you want to take. No matter what choice you make with your degree, I hope it is worthwhile for you and wish you the best of luck!